GRAND FORKS - Making its first state tournament appearance since 2015, the Dickinson High girls tennis team and its return to the big stage didn't go as the team would've hoped.
Opening the 2019 State Girls Tennis Tournament team against the top seed from the Eastern Dakota Conference, the Midgets were swept 5-0 by West Fargo Sheyenne in the quarterfinals of team competition on Thursday, May 30, from the Wynne Courts.
The Mustangs set the tone for the day during singles action. West Fargo Sheyenne junior Monti Knewtson and senior Preeti Chemiti each won comfortably by 6-1, 6-0 scores over seventh-grader Valeria Bradley and sophomore Emma Dazell, respectively. In the longest match of one-on-one play, freshman Mimi Gu got by Midgets eighth-grader Malayna Schneider, 6-1, 6-2. It was only Schneider's second singles loss of her career.
"Their top-three players are probably the best three players in the state," Dickinson head coach Lia Bradley said. "That's pretty much who they are going to play all the way to the final, so it makes it kind of a breeze for them when they play other teams."
In doubles play, senior Lauren Jorda and junior Anna Stankova put up most competitive effort against the Mustangs, as they were outlasted by seniors Abby College and Miranda Sommerfeld 7-5, 6-4. What made the Dickinson duo's effort so impressive is that it was the first time all season Stankova and Jorda were paired together.
"They did quite well," Bradley said. "I thought we made the right choice by putting those two together. ... I thought those two girls, for never having played together, played excellent together. I'm very proud of them and it was a very close match. Stankova has really great ground strokes and Lauren Jorda is awesome at the net, so it was a great combination."
West Fargo Sheyenne completed its sweep when the team of senior Kaitlin Sundlie and junior Hailey Raan defeat senior co-captain Alexa Cofer and sophomore Elizabeth Dean 6-0, 6-1.
The Mustangs weren't only dominant against Dickinson, as they didn't lose their match against Fargo North, the EDC No. 3 seed, and Fargo Davies, the No. 2 seed from the EDC, en route to their second state championship.
Later in the day during the consolation bracket, the Midgets met with familiar foe Bismarck Legacy, the No. 2 seed from the West Region. On April 25, Dickinson won the lone matchup between the two teams in the regular season by a 5-4 margin. In the rematch, the Sabers were victorious in another close result, 3-2.
Stankova and Schneider put Dickinson on the board with singles wins. Stankova raced by junior Hannah Felt 6-3, 6-1, while Schneider triumphed over sophomore Camaryn Beasley 6-1, 6-3.
The lower-seeded team won two of the three singles matches, but Bismarck Legacy captured the victory thanks to two doubles wins.
The pairing of seniors Abby McPherson and Karissa Albaugh didn't have much trouble with Jorda and Dazell, moving past the Midgets No. 1 team, 6-0, 6-2. Then, seniors Alexi Ness and Hailey Wanner outlasted Cofer and Dean 7-6 (8), 6-3.
"Against Legacy, it was again a close match," Bradley said. "I just think with our team having young players who haven't been at state, they probably were a little bit tired and banged up. ... As a team, we kind of stretched them all the way, as far as they can go with WDA and here, they were just not 100 percent."
Dickinson's time at state isn't done just yet, as Stankova and Bradley will compete in state singles tournament on Friday. Stankova, the No. 2 seed in the West, will face Fargo Davies junior Habiba Heshmat, the East's No. 7 seed. Playing as the No. 6 seed from the West, Bradley has a date with Heshmat's teammate, junior Madison Bell, the No. 3 seed in the East.
"Fargo Davies is a really strong team, (Bell and Heshmat) are their No. 1 and 2," Bradley said. "I have hope that one of our players, or hopefully, both can make it through the first round. I'm hoping that Anna can make it a little further in the draw. Valeria is a little bit young, but you never know. Anything can happen in the game of tennis."
#1E West Fargo Sheyenne 5, #4W Dickinson 0
Singles: 1, Monti Knewtson, WFS, def. Valeria Bradley, 6-1, 6-0. 2, Preeti Chemiti, WFS, def. Emma Dazell, 6-1, 6-0. 3, Mimi Gu, WFS, def. Malayna Schneider, 6-1, 6-2.
Doubles: 1, Abby College/Miranda Sommerfeld, WFS, def. Anna Stankova/Lauren Jorda, 7-5, 6-4. 2, Kaitlin Sundlie/Hailey Raan, WFS, def. Alexa Cofer/Elizabeth Dean, 6-0, 6-1.
#2W Bismarck Legacy 3, #4W Dickinson 2
Singles: 1, Stankova, D, def. Hannah Felt, 6-3, 6-1. 2, Sierra Knoll, BL, def. Bradley, 6-1, 6-3. 3, Schneider, D, def. Camaryn Beasley, 6-1, 6-3.
Doubles: 1, Abby McPherson/Karissa Albaugh, BL, def. Jorda/Dazell, 6-0, 6-2. 2, Alexi Ness/Hailey Wanner, BL, def. Cofer/Dean, 7-6 (8), 6-3.